A New Age guru and his growing flock of West Coast followers clash with Middle America’s most conservative preachers and politicians in this satirical novel about faith and tolerance.
Duke Tanner isn’t your grandfather’s spiritual advisor. The Texas-bred “redneck” led a variety of lives—football player, rodeo star, Vietnam soldier, decorated Cadillac salesman—before he started preaching about reincarnation in his San Francisco compound. So how did he come to strike it rich on the stock market, manifest himself as a pseudo–cult leader (equal parts Ken Kesey, Suze Orman and Maharishi Yogi), and land his group and their Missouri ranch in the cross hairs of a U.S. Senator and a greedy businessman? These answers are the gift and curse of Pointer’s debut novel. After a compelling in media res opening, he rewinds too far and spends the novel’s first half digging through the guts of a slow-moving, exposition-heavy back story. While this does an excellent job of developing Duke’s character and illustrating his natural evolution from ranch boy to guru, it often does so at the expense of the novel’s momentum and general flow. Plotwise, things pick up when the narrative arrives back at the heart of the conflict, but the eventual climax—tender liberals versus inhuman conservatives—doesn’t make the juice worth the squeeze. While Pointer’s villains tend to be one dimensional, Duke, the hero, is complex, funny and charismatic, which sometimes saves the story from the damnation of dull prose and an unbalanced plot. Unfortunately, it’s not enough to convince the audience to drink the Kool-Aid.
Solid characters and hearty laughs, but pacing and prose issues prevent the sermon from sticking.